Tasha Oates updated October 26, 2010


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  • Closet Truckers

    (Naperville, IL)—Behind every model railroader is a closet trucker, at least according to Mont Switzer. And he should know.

    In 1996, Switzer started a trucking company, called Brees & Switzer Tank Lines, Inc. With only four operating trucks acquired from a former gas station, the company, now Switzer Transportation Companies, Inc. located in Mt. Summit, Indiana, quickly grew to include a repair shop, fueling facility, and an ever-increasing fleet.

    This year, at the 17th Annual Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) meet in Naperville, IL, Switzer gave a seminar on the History of Trucking, hoping he’d recruit a few more fans from the model railroading sidelines. He did his job. The room was packed.

    Titling his presentation, “Trucking in the Classic Era: Horses to Super Highways”, Switzer provided those in attendance with photos, facts, and information on the history, evolution, and impact of the trucking industry in America.

    Trucks and trains share a past and future. Each has relied on the other throughout time to make up where the other lacked. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for a rail company to have its own trucking fleet, driving right along their own trains, delivering goods.

    Over time, as railroads eliminated Less Than Container Load (LCL) services, some companies found trucking services to be good partners in cost reduction. This was common practice in the waning days of LCL freight. It was less expensive to interline LCL shipments to Less Than Truck Load (LTL) motor carriers to avoid the cost of operating LCL cars in local freight trains. It made perfectly good sense.

    Additionally, with economic weaknesses in rail service, valuable and vulnerable work was siphoned off to the trucking industry, including high value or service-sensitive freight where the personalized attention of a truck driver was desirable – something a train couldn’t provide.

    May World War I veterans returned from military service with a newly gained knowledge and respect for the trucks that had supplied them in battle, and it was simple matter for them to acquire a truck and begin hauling for hire. However, due to lack of shipper’s support, business knowledge, and fierce competition, many people failed.

    States attempted, unsuccessfully, to regulate trucking activities within their borders in hopes of stabilizing the failures of the industry and developing a system of reliable motor transportation service. Taking a cue from the railroads, by 1928, 33 states had some sort of regulatory authority over the trucking industry. To facilitate this, many states established ports of entry to check trucks before allowing them to enter.

    The Motor Carrier Act of 1935, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the National Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Federal Highway Act of 1956, the National Equipment Interchange Agreement, and the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 all played significant roles in the development and evolution of America’s trucking industry.

    As the national interstate system of highways was built, linking almost every major city in the U.S. and paralleling already-established and significant rail lines, trucks took their hold as the top dog in the transportation industry.

    Although trucking may have won the economic race across America against trains, they haven’t yet won the hearts of all model railroaders…. but they’re getting closer. Closer than you think. Learn more about trucking, its past, and its brotherhood with trains today.


    For more information on Switzer Transportation Companies, Inc., visit their website at http://switzertc.com/.


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